Thawing Out from Winter

As the seasons change, so too does the voice of "The Roger Henry File." This time, we hear Diana Simon's take on spring in Alaska.

May 12, 2009

spring in alaska 368

Good music and great sailing on the_ Alaskan Rover_ heralds the Summer sailing season. Diana Simon

For this installment of “The Roger Henry File,” Diana Simon chimes in as guest author. -Ed.

Onboard the Roger Henry, the noises coming from the engine “room” sound like a grizzly coming out of hibernation. Alvah is installing “Angela,” our recently rebuilt Perkins engine. Seeing him contorted into an upside down Houdini-like pose, I am happy that this is a ‘blue job’ on the Roger Henry.

I am also happy that here in Alaska it’s official–Spring has arrived!


Our good friend, Mike Beckwith, declared it so when we took a wave over the bow of his truck from a torrent of melt water while driving in Anchorage. Even the language changes with the season here. His talk turned from snow machines and snowshoeing to Flashaboos, Iliamna Pinkies and Woolybuggers. No, those are not the names of local rock bands. Mike is an avid fisherman and they are names of salmon fishing flies.

Alvah Simon| |After a snowy white winter, spring in Alaska arrives with a burst of color.|

With a gleam in his eye, he promised “These will prove irresistible to 20-pound sockeyes.” However he warned, ” Just remember you are not the only hungry hunter out there. Those big Grizzlies are mighty partial to a fat fish too.”


Back onboard the Roger Henry in Seward, we dropped into the Breeze Inn. This pub not only boasts the best view in town, but Randy Altermatt, one of Alvah’s favorite singers, was playing. Randy and his wife, Deborah, own Sailing Inc. and have been tremendously helpful and hospitable during our winter stay.

While Alvah crooned with Randy I talked about the weather with an old timer perched on the adjacent barstool.
“Now don’t be putting them woolies (warm clothes) and tuffies (heavy rubber boots) away before June,” he warned me. “And be sure to have them at the ready again by the end of July.”

Amazingly, daylight hours are now increasing by five minutes everyday, the deep snow is melting, and a few brave daffodils are blooming outside! Near the Roger Henry the neighboring boats are emerging from hibernation. Enthusiastic sailors, shaking off their winter slumber, dive in to a flurry of spring-cleaning. Winter canopies are disappearing, engines are recommissioned, sails re-fastened, decks scrubbed and stainless steel polished.


Seward’s winter façade is changing. The odd tourist, prematurely clad in shorts, can be seen shivering on the docks looking for Oscar, our resident sea otter.

The year’s first cruise ship landed 750 English visitors who swarmed the newly opened galleries, T-shirt shops and Seward’s highlight, the Sea Life Center.

Alvah Simon| |Summer may be coming, but Diana finds the winter woolies still feel fine.|


Up in the surrounding mountains, black bears are emerging from hibernation. Their presence really adds a new dimension to a quiet walk in the woods. In theory they spend the first few weeks eating grass and will not be interested in humans. Nevertheless when out on a trail, I will be wearing bells on my toes, have bear-mace in hand, and will sport a flare pistol in my pocket.

Overhead, clouds of geese and swans fly north. Below, in the local marina, yachties sure wish the bald eagles would do the same. Apparently these large raptors have a bad habit of perching aloft on the mastheads and making mischief with aerials and wind instruments.

Very soon the Roger Henry will point her bow south. Leaving is always an emotional hotchpotch for me. There is the excitement of heading off to new places mixed with the sadness of leaving friends.

I have met many great women here in Seward. They are a hardy and interesting bunch that can skin a moose in the morning and be serving elegant pomegranate cocktails by evening. My kind of girls.

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